Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Self-defence guidance

The Crown Prosecution Service has today released its guidance on the homeowners right to self-defence. This was promised by the Home Secretary in the face of a pretty effective campaign led by the Conservatives' Patrick Mercer.

The key part is the first section on the definition of reasonable force.

Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime. You are not expected to make fine judgements over the level of force you use in the heat of the moment. So long as you only do what you honestly and instinctively believe is necessary in the heat of the moment, that would be the strongest evidence of you acting lawfully and in selfdefence. This is still the case if you use something to hand as a weapon.

The last sentence looks as if it has been worded with the utmost care. Read quickly and you might think that you can keep a weapon by your side for self-defence purposes. Indeed Channel Four News this evening reported that you would be allowed to keep a gun by your bedside, which suggests to me a little ignorance of the firearms laws. Read the sentence more carefully however and it is probably more accurately interpreted as meaning you cannot keep a weapon by your side. It must be something to hand.

As a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence.

Meaning what exactly? So if I am scared witless, I can use a gun? Is that what it means?

The leaflet says I don't have to wait to be attacked first. Thank-you Mr Clark, you are too kind.

The guidance goes on to state that you cannot set a trap to hurt or kill the intruder rather than involve the police. Which begs the question "Is it OK to set a trap to hurt or kill the intruder if the police had done a Tony Martin and repeatedly ignored your attempts to try to involve them."

The questions I have always wanted answered on this area are "Do I have to turn the lights on before attacking?" and "Do I have to challenge the intruder before attacking". It always struck me that if you are small, weak or infirm, the last thing you would want to do is to demonstrate to the intruder that you are any of those things. But the guidance is silent on this.

The leaflet closes with a big fat lie
It is a fact that very few householders have ever been prosecuted for actions resulting from the use of force against intruders.

Patrick Mercer was on the radio this morning pointing out that they don't know this because they don't keep any records on the subject. It has also been pointed out that even a cursory search of the press suggests that there are more than the CPS is owning up to.

All in all it's a pretty poor attempt. It reeks of guidance put together in a hurry to face of a concerted opposition campaign rather than having been thought through properly. Plenty more ammunition for Patrick Mercer by the looks of it.